Technology has disrupted many industries over the last decade. Amazon, eBay, and many other online retailers have experienced tremendous growth in the use of e-commerce, leading to the reduction of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Uber and Lyft have dominated market share over the traditional taxi cab industry. Airbnb and VRBO are changing how vacations and reservations are booked, and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have uprooted the video rental industry.
Similarly, technology will certainly have a big impact on senior living operations and its residents this year and beyond. The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought us voice recognition solutions, safety sensors, and smart home technology for security cameras and thermostats. These applications can provide users with more freedom and a higher quality of life, making the senior living environment better for both residents and operators. However, for many senior living communities, there is a problem with the inevitable technology disruption – many overlook the foundational requirement of a building-wide, robust Wi-Fi network to support the influx of IoT devices.
Connectivity is the backbone for these technologies, but without a solid network infrastructure, IoT devices will not function properly. According to Nick Patel, President of Asbury Group Integrated Technologies, a consulting arm for Asbury Communities, “we’re still seeing connectivity as a major issue.” Industry-wide, high-speed Internet access is still the biggest hurdle for senior living when it comes to taking advantage of all that technology has to offer. A cable modem with a wireless router in only the common areas isn’t going to cut it anymore.
We could talk about what a good network looks like as well as what a good partner looks like, but let's tackle the biggest hurdle for many senior living operators – the financial investment.
Cost is often the largest factor keeping many communities from adding a desperately needed Wi-Fi network, but is it really that costly? If residents are paying for their own Internet service individually to the cable company, there may be some key issues. Consider the following:
Do you know how much those residents are paying for their service? They are likely going to the local cable provider, paying retail rates upwards of $50-60 per month, and dealing with technicians, extra equipment, and a separate bill on their own.
How many residents are doing this? Usually it’s a small percentage, often 15-25%.
How many more residents would opt for Internet access if it cost less or was a free amenity, and if they didn’t have to jump through the hoops of a local provider? Likely a vast majority of them—after all, you’ve seen the surveys about how many seniors are regularly utilizing mobile devices.
A quick calculation shows that in a community comprised of 80 resident rooms, as much as $800 per month is spent by residents on Internet access, serving only a fraction of the community.
On average, an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi network designed specifically for your property costs significantly less than $800 per month and will provide connectivity to the entire building. Many operators choose to charge a monthly technology fee per room that covers the cost of the solution – or at a small margin to create a profit stream for the community.
The fact of the matter is that a well-designed network is more affordable than you would think – especially given the value it brings to your residents’ quality of life. Additionally, it can reduce costs for your residents, create operational efficiencies, and has the potential to be budget neutral or even create profit. That sounds like a big win for the owner, the operator, and your residents.
With the foundation of full coverage Wi-Fi in place throughout your community, new technologies can be adopted to improve operations and your residents can enjoy simple, secure, and convenient wireless access without the hassle of dealing with local providers. Not only will investing in a well-designed Wi-Fi network give your property a competitive advantage today, but you will also be equipped with a scalable network that can evolve as the needs of future generations inevitably change.